Back to open planning

A small house with large spaces is any day better than a large house with small spaces

Ask any architect about the modern trends in city homes and there are more chances of ‘open planning’ being mentioned. In a way it is not modern, it is how human shelters began. Climatically conforming, cost reducing and contextually adoptable, residential and public use spaces of the past were built without too many internal rooms or partitions. Subsequently, houses in cold regions developed the idea of having cells – small spaces that could be kept warm, while tropics continued with minimal enclosures. From palaces to peasant’s homes, the front of the house had only a roof, no front wall. The immediate inside would be a hall with or without a courtyard.

Then came electricity and following it the idea of separated rooms each with walls and doors. Entrance lobby, living, dining, kitchen and study, each became a room, from being part of a continuous whole.

We got kitchens with doors, where the doors were never closed. Introduction of electricity enabled family members to occupy different rooms as they wished. No wonder, sense of privacy and individuality increased, resulting in each bedroom getting a toilet too, shaping up today’s typical city house — a large house with small rooms!

In south India, if the house gets sub-divided into rooms, the separation not only affects light and air, it also makes the building interior appear small.

If we host even a small function, the house appears crowded. Electricity enables such houses, so no wonder, our electricity bills kept raising. If so, why were they built so?

There was a time when this type of house was considered better, with more privacy and a defined place for everything in the house. It might have suited some climatic zones, but not south India.

Feel the difference

Even today, people moving from villages into our metro cities can feel the difference in domestic spaces, a shift from their spread-out open halls to enclosed small rooms. Such people, invariably, get a new house designed with open planning.

We architects often get prospective owners, who grew up with middle class parents in crowded small houses, now aspiring for uncluttered, free-flowing spaces. Incidentally, this new trend is not restricted to large-budgeted big houses, but even to small ones.

In these days, when open pavilions are gaining ground, minimally enclosed buildings can be very easily used and justified. Even public structures can benefit from this approach. Technically, we can transfer much of the roof load to the outer walls, to leave the internal areas as large open spaces.

They could be left as multi-functional entities, for subdivision by each generation as they may feel. In this approach, not only the reduced internal walls lead to reduced costs, even small sites can have seemingly big buildings.

A small house with large spaces is any day better than a large house with small spaces.

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Posted on June 11, 2011, in designs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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